By Paul Eddison

GRAEME Smith has paid tribute to Jimmy Anderson, citing their battles among his favourite contests of his career ahead of the England great’s final Test.

The 41-year-old will make his final Test appearance for England against the West Indies at Lord’s this week, bringing down the curtain on a career that has seen him take 700 wickets in the format.

That is the most of any fast bowler and includes six dismissals of former South Africa captain Smith.

Speaking at World Cricket Connects, an event at Lord’s hosted by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) designed for the leading voices in the game to discuss the health of cricket, Smith hailed Anderson’s impact.

He said: “I still can't believe he's still playing. I mean, he's looking probably fitter than ever. An incredible effort from him.

“He’s one of the most skilful bowlers I ever played against. My contests against Jimmy were some of my favourites that I had in my career. He was super skilful. You always had to be on top of your game.

“He was relentless in the way that he went about it. We had a lot of competitive battles that I'll remember for a long time. A lot of laughs in terms of things that were said and how the battles unfolded. But I just want to wish him well in his last test.

“He's been a great servant for the game. And if anyone deserves a terrific send-off, it's him.”

World Cricket Connects brought a range of prominent thinkers in cricket together at Lord’s, with players, coaches, broadcasters, franchise owners and administrators all in attendance.

Smith, as a former Proteas skipper and now the league commissioner of South Africa’s SA20 competition, has a clear insight into some of the challenges the game faces.

And while that has caused scheduling issues, including South Africa playing a Test series in New Zealand without their leading players due to a clash with the SA20, he believes the new league has revitalised the sport in his country.

He said: “In South Africa, if cricket hadn't developed a product like SA20, Test cricket might not even have been relevant in a few years' time.

“As much as there's the commercial and the privatisation, what comes with it is also an unbelievable skill, you know, from a business perspective.

“They bring the top coaches, they bring, you know, the top medical. And we expose 70 South Africans to an elite contest every year that hopefully will benefit other formats. It's very difficult to predict what that looks like into the future.

“But for four weeks a year, we commit to a product that hopefully, that I believe will hopefully keep South African cricket relevant and strong for the time to come.”